The City of Music

One of the best things about living in the state of Bavaria is that there are a lot of holidays! I always try and take advantage of the extra days off and visit a new city. This time I went to Vienna with two of my favorite fellow expats!

Our journey there was a bit longer than anticipated due to traffic, and we took a “share ride” there in a big van, which slowed us down. But taking a share ride (found on sites like mitfahrgelegenheit & Blablacar) is a great way to save money and meet new people! I was a bit hesitant about using the service, especially when traveling alone, but I use it several times a month now and every experience has been good so far!

Anyways, we finally arrived at the apartment we rented for the weekend (thank you Airbnb) in the early evening, freshened up, and went to explore the city! We wandered around downtown and grabbed a tasty dinner at an Asian restaurant in the Naschtmarkt, a large food market in the centre of the city. 

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 The weather was absolutely amazing, the first hot “summer” weather I’ve had since being abroad. We took advantage of the weather and sat along the river and watched the sunset before heading back to our flat.

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Later that night we went back to the river to sit at one of the many cute bars that line its banks. All the bars were filled with people enjoying the summer heat, but we found a table and took in the view, along with a cocktail or two. Then we decided to go to one the upscale hotels that had a beautiful bar & restaurant overlooking the city. The view from the floor-to-ceiling windows was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

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The next day we treated ourselves to an extensive brunch buffet before hitting the city again. Our first stop was Schönbrunn Palace, where we spent time exploring the extensive grounds.

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 Then we stopped at the famous Café Sacher to get their legendary Sacher-Torte. I have to say that I wasn’t a fan, but I always like to try new food (especially dessert), so it was worth the trip!

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We spent our evening walking around the Spittelberg area and the museum quarter, which are both lovely. Not so lovely was our “Mexican” food at dinner. Mexican food in Europe is very hit or miss, and sadly this was a miss. The Mexican food I’ve had in Munich is much better!

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As the sun went down we stumbled upon a gorgeous rose garden in the center of the city, there were rows and rows of rose bushes making the air smell heavenly. I wish we could have had a chance to go back during the day, but that will have to wait for the next time I visit the city!

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As we kept walking we realized there was an outdoor festival going on, complete with live music and lots of food stands! We sat down and enjoyed some upbeat music in front of one of their government buildings, which looked more like a church- and a beautifully lit one at that.

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On our last day in the city we took a Ferris Wheel ride in the cute amusement park near the city center. The views were wonderful! The rest of our day was spent at a local public swimming pool, which was the perfect way to enjoy the hot weather! Public swimming pools (Schwimmbädern) are much nicer in Germany and Austria than the ones I’ve seen in the U.S., and they are very affordable!

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Our last random stop was at an American style café which offered bagels filled with cheddar cheese, bacon & eggs- the perfect quick meal before grabbing a share ride back to Munich! What can I say, I’m a sucker for American-style breakfast foods, even when abroad!

I’m so glad I finally made it to Vienna. I think my next “new” city to visit will be Salzburg when my sister finally comes to visit!

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Back in Bavaria!

It has been a long time (too long) since I wrote a post. But better late than never right?!

So to start, I am back in Germany, Munich to be exact. I was lucky enough to find a job at a small IT distributor in the city through a friend! Staring in December I spent a few lovely months at home enjoying time with my family before packing up my life again and heading back across the ocean to Bavaria. I’ve been back for about 3 months now, and have met lots of amazing new people (plus caught up with friends from last time) and done a little bit of traveling! Most of my traveling has been to places I’ve been before, like Bamberg, but I also made it to Prague (which will be a separate post).  Below are some of the highlights from the past few months!

Visiting Bamberg again before starting my job. I highly suggest stopping by this beautiful town if you ever get the chance!

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Pictures from Carnival/Fasching, a big celebration in German-speaking countries where everyone dresses up in silly costumes and enjoys parades and street food. People really go all out for costumes, and the focus is more on amusing costumes than scary or revealing ones. My favourite costumes were three women who were dressed up in full “Gone with the Wind” style outfits, hoop skirts and all! Sadly I did not get a picture.

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As luck would have it, a fews days after I moved back to Munich my favorite Country artist, Eric Church, was touring Europe and stopped in the city! I went to the concert with two of my good friends and it was an absolute blast! I think it was the 6th time I’d seen him live and he never disappoints!

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St. Patrick’s Day rolled around and Munich hosted a surprisingly big parade as well as a fun after party!  There were some very stylish Kilts being sported around the city.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

While exploring the city one evening I stumbled upon a casual Mexican restaurant, which has become one of my favorite places to eat! They have delicious tacos that remind me of home!

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Another favourite spot of mine is a rooftop bar, which is always crammed, but offers a great view of the city and delicious hugos (a champagne drink usually served with elderberry flower syrup, mint and lime).

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I spent a beautiful early spring afternoon exploring the Nymphenburg Palace grounds, which remind me of a scene out of Pride & Prejudice.

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Spent another nice afternoon in the English Garden, one of my favorite places in the city! Can’t wait to have picnics there in the summer.

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One Saturday I spent several hours wandering through the biggest flea market I’ve ever seen! There was a lot of junk, but also some very cool & expensive pieces.

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Took another trip to Bamberg to see Toby, this time with my lovely American friend! We did an informal tour of locals breweries one day, which was fun, and spent the next day wandering around like tourists.

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 The last few months have really flown by, I can’t believe it’s already mid-May! The weather is finally warming up, and I’m looking forward to spending my weekends grilling out in the parks and biking through the city! More posts to come!

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East Meets West- 3 days in Berlin

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I had heard some mixed things about Berlin before our visit earlier this month. Some of my friends loved it, some said they ran out of stuff to do, and some said it was fascinating. I ended up agreeing with the latter, it is a fascinating city, though maybe not one I would want to live in (I´m probably not artsy/cool enough).

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Our first day started at around 4:30 in the morning in order to catch our 7am flight. That put us in the city around 9, and amazingly enough our hotel let us check in hours earlier, leaving us luggage free to explore the city. We made it into the city center in time to catch one of the free tours of the city. First I made a quick pit stop at Dunkin Donuts- so nice to have a decent sized cup of coffee (a “large” coffee in Germany is smaller than an American small). The tour was great, we got a good overview of how the Nazi party came to power, saw a very expensive and interesting Holocaust memorial, the area where Hitler committed suicide (now a parking lot), and Checkpoint Charlie (overrated) just to name some.

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After the tour ended we made a quick trip through a cool Turkish street market (I love markets) and found a small sushi place I had read about. This place was tiny, but man was the sushi good, and SO CHEAP. Munich is said to be the most expensive city in Germany, and Berlin is probably the cheapest. Toby and I each got 2 rolls and a soup for 15 Euros.

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Later that night we made reservations at this small Israeli place which turned out to be delicious, I´d never had Israeli food, but I would love to have it again! I´m not quite sure what I got, some chicken/hummus/soy/honey combination with endless fresh pita bread. Our meal, with wine, was only 20 Euros- why can´t the rest of western Europe be this cheap? Then we met up with a friend for drinks next door, and of course the drinks were about half the price as those in Munich, a very nice change.

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On Saturday we started the day with a very expansive hotel breakfast, which was great. Then we headed to the government area, where the Bundestag  (parliament) is located. After walking around a bit we headed to the warmth of a huge department store called KaDeWe, which is similar to Harrods, though not quite as grand.

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The store has the most amazing floor that is chock full of fabulous foods, wine, spices and more. There are food counters galore where you can buy almost any food item you an imagine, and long counters where they whip up fresh regional cuisine right in front of you, though we couldn´t afford these expensive delicacies. The top floor, which is made up of a “food court” was more in our price range. I use the term food court lightly though, because it is very different than an American food court. They sell gourmet gelato, fresh cooked fish, crepes to order, mini bottles of champagne and other tempting treats. They also have a bar for people to grab an afternoon drink. I selected a slice of cheesecake which was perfectly creamy to have as pre-lunch snack. Then we met up with 2 of Toby´s friends to have a good luck glass of Hugo before heading out to the old Olympic Stadium (built by Hitler) to see my first Fußball game!

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When we got to the stadium there were massive crowds milling around, it was pretty tame though, considering how crazy fußball fans can get. Apparently in some countries you are advised to not bring yours kids in case things get out of hand. We got a bratwurst and found our seats, which were pretty good. I´m not a big sports fan, but watching a game live at such a huge stadium was pretty cool.  There was  huge section for all the Berlin fan club members, and they were constantly jumping up and down, waving their arms and shouting. It looked kind of exhausting, but was certainly entertaining to watch. Even the visiting team had a substantial fan section, and they also were very energetic.

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Sadly Berlin lost, but that didn´t matter that much to us. One of the most interesting aspects of the experience came after the game when the fans from the opposing team were escorted out of the arena by a massive line of police, so that the fans from the two teams wouldn´t clash. It was somewhat intimidating watching literally hundreds of police, some dressed in SWAT-like garb and some on huge horses standing guard, all just so that grown men didn´t fight over a game. I obviously don´t get why anyone would fight over a sport, but it happens fairly often. Anyways…

We finished off the night with by grabbing locally brewed beer nearby with some fans and then a quick bite to eat at a Thai place.

On our last day in Berlin we visited the Berlin Jewish Museum
which I would highly suggest. I know a fair amount about World War II and the Holocaust, but I learned a lot about the treatment of Jews before and after the Shoah. The architecture of the museum is very interesting as well, and compliments the exhibits nicely. We only had about 2 hours to wander around, but you could easily spend a whole afternoon taking it all in.

Once we left the museum we met up with another tour, this time it was of “Alternative Berlin”, our guide from the last tour had suggested it and he turned out to be the one leading this one. The tour was awesome, it focused a lot on street art and the gentrification of many parts of the city. I only knew a little bit about street art before the tour, mostly thanks to my Intro to Art class that taught me about Banksy, but he was a fantastic guide and gave a really good overview of the evolution of tagging and street art. This tour also allowed us to see some really neat parts of the city we probably wouldn´t have found on our own. We ended the tour at the East Side Gallery, which is thought to be the largest and longest-standing outdoor art gallery in the world. It is a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall that has been painted by over a 100 different artists, creating an impressive variety of murals and paintings.

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After the tour finished, we made our way over to a street full of restaurants where we enjoyed some good Mexican food. The free basket of chips wasn´t quite as fresh or large as in America, but the rest of the food made up for it! Then it was off to the Berlin Airport (which really needs some updating) and back to Munich!

I really enjoyed our time in Berlin, it is a city with a fascinating past and a bright future, plus the food  we ate was fantastic. However, I was happy to head back home to Munich, which I find to be a safer, cleaner and prettier city.

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Life in Munich

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I´ve been in Munich for close to a month now, and I must say, I´m definitely a fan!

Food

 German food is pretty darn good overall, but also very heavy, since it is largely made up of pork, sausages, bread, potatoes and BEER.  There are of course lots of good traditional German restaurants in the city, a new favorite being Weisses Bräuhaus, which was suggested to us by Toby´s sister-in-law, and had awesome food and even better dessert! Munich has a lot of variety as well; we´ve had everything from sushi to upscale Mexican and a lot of traditional Italian food too.

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Delicious bratwurst from a food stand at one of the seasonal markets.

You can only eat out so much though, and in order to save money and (sometimes) calories, one eventually has to start cooking. I´m definitely not much of a cook, but I have managed to make some dinners that don´t consist of just sandwiches.

I go grocery shopping almost every day here; since things are rarely sold in “American” sized portions, which is great for me since I am only shopping for two people. Sometimes I miss having a gigantic pantry and fridge filled with food like I did at home, but by shopping in smaller quantities we waste a lot less food, and I really only buy what I know we will eat. It certainly helps that I walk right by at least 2 grocery stores on the way home from school, and there is another one within 5 minutes walking distance from our bungalow. I´ve done enough grocery shopping by now that I can almost always find what I need without having to text Toby, though I do have to resort to my phone for translations on occasion.

My favorite place to shop for food though is definitely the Viktualienmarkt , which is a nice-sized food market right in the heart of Munich. There I´ve scored some delicious quiches, breads, cheese, dips and more. I could wander around there for hours buying new treats if my wallet would permit such an indulgent day. Food markets are definitely something we are missing in Raleigh, the farmers market just doesn´t compare.

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Love the fresh produce stands (left). Daily menu of my fav. soup place (right)

Drinks

Beer (bier) is of course insanely popular over here, Munich alone has 6 large brewing companies;  Löwenbräu, Hofbräuhaus,  Augustinerbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Spaten. 

I´ve only been to Hofbräuhaus so far, and that was just to take a peek inside. We have plans to go to Augustinerbräu at some point though, as it is apparently a favorite here in Munich. Beer always seems to be the cheapest option when eating out, which is great when you want a large cold glass, but not so much when you really just want some water. A glass of water can easily cost you 2-4 Euros depending on the size, making me miss the days of free water (and free refills) back home. So a lot of the times I end up just going with the crowd and getting a beer. Also Munich, like most other European cities, has great coffee, especially cappuccinos, which have become my weakness. We don´t have an electric coffee maker in our flat, so I´ve been giving in to temptation and buying a cappuccino almost every day before school (a habit I really should break).

Transportation

Ah German public transportation is awesome, though I would be lying if I said I never missed driving my car down a windy back road on the outskirts of Raleigh some days. But all in all I think the Munich underground (U-Bahn) is great; it´s very clean, very efficient and I have yet to get lost. Not only that, but I feel very safe taking the U-Bahn alone, even at night by myself. Unfortunately I can´t say the same for when I was in both Paris and Barcelona.  The trams and buses are good too, though I haven´t had much of a need for them yet.

Home Sweet Home

As some of you may know, Toby and I are living in the old Olympic Village, which once housed the female athletes for the 1972 Summer Games. They lived in “bungalows”, which after the games were turned into student housing. The bungalows were rebuilt from 2007-2009 and students moved back in, in the fall of 2009.There are 1052 bungalows, all within walking distance to a small shopping area which includes several bakeries, a grocery store, post office, flower shop and more. Our flat is very close to the entrance and is literally a 2 minute walk to the U-bahn and about a 12 minute ride to the city center. We can also walk through the old Olympic grounds, which are still used today for many purposes. Right now the leaves are changing and the whole area looks really beautiful. My favorite aspect of where we live though is that residents are allowed to paint their bungalow. I´ve included some of my favorites below!

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The bungalow itself is pretty small, but we have our own entrance and no neighbors above us, since each bungalow is two stories. I was a bit concerned about going from my nice big bedroom and bath at home to a flat that could almost fit in my bedroom alone, but honestly it hasn´t been a big issue. Granted it might be different if I was living here for a whole year, but for just a couple of months this place is pretty awesome. There´s a decent amont of storage for such a small place and I have almost gotten used to having such a tiny kitchen. Having such a small place means it gets messy  very easily, but it also doesn´t take long to clean up-which is good because cleaning isn´t my strong point. Mom you would be proud of how much better I´ve become at cleaning up the kitchen after myself!

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School

I finally started classes a couple of weeks ago at Deutsch Akademie, which I´ve enjoyed. Learning German (Deutsch) is definitely not going to be easy for me, there are a lot of rules and exceptions to learn, plus I am seemingly unable to pronounce any word with a “Z” correctly…. But I will persevere! I´ve met some great people in my class, including two students from Lenoir NC (small world!). It´s a bit strange being a student again, and it´s definitely a different kind of learning experience, since a lot of us in the class have to learn Deutsch in order to get jobs etc… So while the atmosphere of the class is pretty relaxed, I also have to focus a lot more than I did in certain college courses (cough cough Intro to Geology) if I don´t want to get behind.

Overall it´s been a smooth transition to life in Munich, and I can´t wait to see what the next couple of months have in store!

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OKTOBERFEST

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The “real” Oktoberfest turned out to be quite a goodtime as well (in fact we liked it so much we went several times)! On our first trip there we arrived around lunch time and met up with a friend of Toby´s. We spent the first hour or so wandering around the huge fairgrounds and looking at all the gigantic tents and crazy looking rides. I have to say that the rides at the Oktoberfest definitely seemed a bit more impressive (and a bit more secure) than some of the rides at the NC Fair, but we didn’t take the time to find out. We made our way into the “traditional” Oktoberfest, which is a slightly separate area that is a bit calmer and more family friendly. Here we snagged spots at a table and ordered our first beer and some food. It was fascinating sitting there and people watching.There were lots of adorable children roaming around in their traditional outfits, waiters everywhere scurrying around carrying who knows how many liters of beer and people yelling “Prost!” every few seconds. Next to us was a fish tent, where they literally stick fish on sticks and put them in the dirt to grill, then they just slide them off the stick, wrap them in paper and there´s lunch! I decided to pass on that delicacy as I prefer my fish sans eyeballs… I got some sort of German meat and potatoes dish instead.

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We got a chance to talk to ours seatmates who were visiting from Cologne for the day and were very friendly. You make friends pretty quickly when you are all sandwiched tightly together on a bench, and people often hear me speaking English and want to know where I´m from and what I´m doing there (I usually just point to Toby).

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Around 4:30 we realized we were running late for our reservation in the largest tent, so we tried to hurry over to our tent, try being the operative word, because it´s so crowded that it´s hard to hurry anywhere. Eventually we made it, however once we entered the massive tent (which seats around 10,000 people) we couldn’t find the table we were supposed to be at, so we just plopped down at the first one we saw with some empty space. Once again we quickly made friends, I had a really nice chat about religion with a girl who was visiting with some friends from Cologne. Eventually we decided religion was probably too heavy a topic for the Oktoberfest, so we jumped up on the benches and starting partying along with everyone else.

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The rest of the night was a blast, we hung out with everyone at our table until around 9, but at that point it felt like it was after midnight since we had been there for so long. So we bid farewell to our new friends and slowly made our way out of the Oktoberfest gates. There were loud and let’s say “boisterous” festival-goers everywhere outside the gates (there police everywhere too). I had no idea where I was going, but thankfully it´s pretty easy to follow the crowd, so we ended up back at the metro and safely made our way home. Overall I would have to say it was a success! My wallet is definitely a lot lighter (each beer is 10 Euros, and food isn´t cheap either), but it was worth it! I think we´re going to go back this weekend to ride the Ferris wheel and get some more food, plus of course some souvenir beer mugs!

Oktoberfest Round 2

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So we did end up going back to Oktoberfest twice, first for a quick lunch with some friends who were visiting from out of town, and then with the Democratic Party later that night. How did we end up with the American Democratic Party in Munich you may be asking… Long story short, while searching for things to do in Munich I found a Facebook group for Democrats Abroad, and it turns out they have a chapter here. The Chapter was hosting several events over the weekend, including an outing to the Oktoberfest with seat reservations, which aren´t easy to come by . Unfortunately it looked like tickets were sold out for that event by the time I found out about it, but lo and behold we ended up getting two extra tickets last minute when we went to one of their other events Sunday morning. So we ventured back to Oktoberfest Sunday night, first riding the gigantic Ferris wheel, which offered fantastic views of the festival grounds, and then making our way through the crowds to the tent we had reservations for.

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The chapter had reserved about 120 seats, so we had a sizeable area to ourselves.

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There were people from all over Europe (if not the world) who were visiting. We met a couple in the military who were stationed nearby, a woman from Paris, and two ladies from other chapters in Germany just to name several. We had seats on the balcony which allowed us to be a little removed from the craziness, while still getting a prime view of it all below. There were platters of appetizers on every table and of course plenty of beer steins to go around. I also got to enjoy a delicious roast chicken, one of the staples of the Oktoberfest (over 500,000 chickens are consumed each year). The music at this tent was awesome, they played newer songs as well as a bunch of American and German classics like “Sweet Caroline” and “Joana du geile Sau” (a very raunchy but catchy song).

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The night was a blast, though we had to cut out a bit early since Toby had work and I started my German course the next morning. I have to say, I´m really going to miss the excitement of Oktoberfest, and also seeing people everywhere dressed in traditional clothes, it was a lot of fun! Hopefully this year will won´t be the last time I get to experience the biggest beer festival in the world.

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 If you´re interested in learning more about the Oktoberfest, here is an interesting article/quiz about the festival.

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The Stuttgart “Oktoberfest” (aka Cannstatter Volksfest)

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My first experience with Oktoberfest was technically not the “real” Oktoberfest, as in the one in Munich that people travel to from all over the world each year. The one we went to in Stuttgart is actually called Cannstatter Volksfest, but it´s very similar to the one in Munich, just a bit smaller and with a more local/less touristy feel to it. It´s considered to be the 2nd largest beer festival in the world, even though it is not strictly a beer festival.

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We went with the intention to only stay for a few hours, but ended up staying until around midnight because we were having so much fun. When we first got there it was surprisingly empty, but it was the first day, and it was Friday afternoon so a lot of people were probably still at work. We walked around taking in the sights and smells, it really is a lot like the North Carolina State Fair, except with less fried food (no fried candy bars or donut burgers insight). Instead there was an abbundance of delicious German food (roasted nuts, sausages, apple strudel, roast chicken, pork dishes) and of course a lot of cold beer. We peeked into several of the gigantic beer tents before grabbing a seat at one. We were there early enough that we got seats, which was good, those who came later in the evening probably had a rough time finding a spot unless they had a reservation.

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We enjoyed our first beer while taking in the sites and the German music. All around us were people in dirndls and lederhosen, some looking more traditional than others. I really wanted to get a dirndl, but they can be pretty expensive (upwards of 100 Euros) and I didn´t want to drag Toby around while I tried on 20 of them, so we were both in regular clothes. We finished beer #1 and ordered a dish called Swabian pockets (Maultaschen), which were delicious. They are kind of a mix between a dumpling and ravioli, but larger. The rest of the night was spent singing along to a mixture of German drinking songs and American classics like “Summer of 69”. I met some really nice German girls, one of whom braided my hair (braids are very popular at Oktoberfest) and we wandered around the hall meeting people and making new friends.

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Eventually it was time to head home, so after a pit stop at a food tent to grab a sausage we caught the train back to Toby´s parents house. Round 1 of the “Oktoberfest” was definitely a success! Round 2 commences tomorrow at the actual Oktoberfest in Munich! Should be an experience to say the least.

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Back in Barcelona!

Barcelona is hands down one of my favorite places. I was lucky enough to study abroad there for a summer in college, and it was one of the best times of my life. The food is delicious, the weather is fabulous, and there is no shortage of beaches or fresh sangria. So needless to say I was definitely looking forward to going back and revisiting some of my favorite spots. Also, my host family from last time was nice enough to let Toby and I stay there a couple of nights, so I got to have a reunion with them!

At Park Guell my first time in Spain!

At Park Guell my first time in Spain!

We arrived Thursday night and met up with my host sister Laura and went back to her place for a fantastic dinner- fresh guacamole, Spanish tortilla, olives, cheese, meat and more. And for dessert they had my favorite cheese in the entire world, Mató, which is tastes amazing served with honey and walnuts! We took it easy the rest of the night since we had 4 busy days ahead of us!

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We stared off day one by walking through Park Guell and enjoying the beautiful view of the city it offers. Then we explored Gracia (the neighborhood my host family lives in), which is probably my favorite area of Barcelona, with lots of beautiful streets lined with shops and cafes. We wandered around for several hours and I got to show Toby where I lived last time, some places I hung out with my friends, and I even got a novel at the used English book store I discovered last time I was there. We popped over to Sagrada Familia as well, but decided not to go in as the lines were very long.

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Then we made our way to the Gothic quarter, another cool area of the city, where I stumbled upon this store I found last time I was there and I got to get some bracelets to replace the ones I lost years ago. It amazed me how many of my favorite spots I just happened upon without even trying to. The one place I actually tried to find (this tiny little tapas restaurant I adore) we went by twice and both times it was closed . I took that as a sign I should stop looking for things and just see what comes our way.

La Rambla

La Rambla

Food market

Food market

Eventually we made our way down to the beach where we decided to get some cocktails at one of the beachfront restaurants. They are literally built right on top of the sand, and the food is usually pretty decent, even though it comes from these tiny open air kitchens.

By this point we hade done a lot of walking, so we made our way back to Gracia for dinner with Laura, her mother, and grandmother, where we had a very tasty homemade salmon quiche!

Day two I woke up not feeling well, turns out the bad cold Toby had finally got passed on to me  So that put a bit of a damper on things, but even a cold can´t ruin a day in Barcelona. We said goodbye to my host family and headed down to where we were staying the next few nights, which was right off the beach in La Barceloneta (the neighborhood in the city that´s right along the sea).

Barceloneta: we stayed right behind the big building to the left.

Barceloneta: we stayed right behind the big building that´s top left.

We met our host, who was awesome and suggested a local seafood restaurant for lunch. There we got their seafood paella which was very fresh and well seasoned, definitely much better than what you find at the tourist traps that are lined up on the main streets (when looking for good food, I suggest going off the main streets, especially in Barceloneta or near La Rambla). Then we spent the rest of the day renting some lounge chairs at the beach and got some dinner there as well.

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Day three we did a “free” walking tour, which is something I would absolutely suggest doing anytime you are in a city that offers one. I think there are several companies that do these types of tours; we did the one by Sandemens and loved it! Basically you meet up with a group of fellow tourists and just give your email address (for surveys etc…) and then you get taken around the city by someone who can give you the back stories on all the old churches and buildings that you saw but had no idea what they were. We learned a lot about the history of Barcelona and Catalonia in general. It rained for most of the tour, but that still didn’t stop it from being a great way to spend the afternoon- which should say something for the quality. At the end of the tour you tip the guide whatever you think the tour was worth.

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Later that night we went to Plaça d’Espanya and saw one of my favorite attractions, the Magic Fountains. It`s kind of like a miniature version of the Bellagio Fountains, with the water and lights synced to the music. Definitely a wonderful way to spend an hour in the evening, just don´t get too close or you´ll get sprayed!

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On our last day in the city we decided to venture a bit outside the center to a quieter beach. It´s actually pretty easy to do this; you just take the metro to the one of the stations where you can grab a train. It cost us only around 10 Euros and only took about 20 minutes by train to arrive at a very clean and peaceful beach called Ocata. We had plenty of space to ourselves, and unlike in the city, you don’t have people walking around constantly trying to sell you beer/scarves/massages etc… We spent hours enjoying the sun and then got a tasty lunch at a beachside café. Then we spent the next couple of hours just enjoying the view and a pitcher of Sangria.  Ahhh I wish I could go back already, as I sit here writing this in Munich the wind is blowing and you definitely cannot spend anytime outside without a jacket.

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After making our way back into the city we ventured out to this  cool area called Passeig de Born, which has lots of restaurants and cafes, in search of one last delicious meal. In Barcelona you often get handed free drink tickets and other flyers when you are out at night, and you never really know if the place is going to be good or a waste of money. We decided to take a chance at one of the places they were advertising though, mainly because it was a crepe place and I LOVE crepes. Thankfully this turned out to be a great choice; they had fantastic cocktails, including one of the best mojitos I’ve ever had. Also, if you ordered a savory crepe and a cocktail you got a dessert crepe for free, so I was definitely a fan. It was a perfect way to spend our last night in the city.

Dinner at Creps al Born

Dinner at Creps al Born

Even though I spent most of this trip with an annoying cold, it was still an amazing four days, and I can´t wait to explore even more of the city whenever I get a chance to go back! I´m so glad I got to see my old host family and practice a little bit of Spanish (key word little, my Spanish was never great, but after 3 years of not speaking it I probably made absolutely no sense when I talked). And Toby liked Barcelona so much he decided he wants to learn Spanish and try and study abroad in Spain. Guess we´ll see how that goes!

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